Hydration vs. Moisture: Nourishing Skincare Ingredients to Focus on This Year


January 14, 2021
Read Time: 5 minutes

Depriving your skin of hydration and moisture isn’t the way to your skincare goals



Let’s start off by debunking a myth. Contrary to what you might have heard from your mom, your aunt, or that budget-scrimping, skin-compromising voice in your head might tell you: all skin types need hydration and moisture—yes, even oily skin. However, because we live in a perpetually humid country, we’re taught to believe otherwise. Among the first skincare hacks taught to young Filipinos are using toothpaste for zits and applying drying astringent toners to oily skin, both of which are quick fixes that lead to heightened sensitivity and a compromised skin barrier. 


There is a lot of unlearning for us to do—and it begins with understanding the difference between moisture and hydration, and why you need both. 


What’s the Difference?

When your workout instructor tells you to hydrate mid-circuit, what they mean is to reach for your water bottle and drink up. The same goes for skin. Hydration equates to the water in your skin that maintains elasticity and fights dullness and wrinkles.


Moisture, on the other hand, pertains to oil. And despite how Southeast Asian countries have demonized the heck out of oily skin, no, oil isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The skin has a natural barrier made up of lipids, amino acids and fatty acids to protect it, but this security blanket can break down over time. The oils in moisturizer give this barrier a boost, helping to lock the hydration (water!) within. 


RELATED: We Break Down the ABC’s of Skincare


What’s on the Menu?


Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

What it does: Hydrate

Is it really an article about hydrating skincare if hyaluronic acid isn’t mentioned? Every beauty community’s favorite ingredient, hyaluronic acid is an NMF (Naturally Moisturizing Factor, meaning it’s one of those water-binding ingredients that is already present in our skin) that acts like a sponge, able to hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. Hyaluronic acid molecules in different sizes also help the skin at different levels: molecules with higher weight do a great job at hydrating the skin’s surface, while those with lower molecular weight penetrate into the deeper layers. 


Some personal hyaluronic acid favorites include Isntree’s Hyaluronic Acid Water Essence (P1500, currently on sale for P1199) and Hada Labo’s Hydrating Lotion (P685), which contains four types of HA to nourish the skin on multiple levels. Another promising find is Happy Skin’s newly launched Hyaluronic + B3 Boost Water Cream (P899).


ISNTREE Hyaluronic Acid Water Essence

HADA LABO Hydrating Lotion

HAPPY SKIN Hyaluronic + B3 Boost Water Cream


Centella Asiatica

What it does: Hydrate

K-beauty aficionados know that Centella Asiatica has been South Korea’s favorite skincare superstar over the past few years. It’s in cleansers! It’s in essence! Centella Asiatica is pretty much every product you can think of, with brands releasing new collections dedicated solely to the ingredient.


Good reason and great performance backs up the hype. We’ve written at length our love of Centella Asiatica in the past, but in a nutshell, it’s rich in antioxidants, repairs sun damage and gives the skin a big, wet, hydrating kiss every time. Here are some updated favorites: Glow Monster’s Centella Essence + Niacinamide (P1200, on sale for P649) and Barr Cosmetics’ Centella Calming Barrier Cream (P1380).


GLOW MONSTER Centella Essence + Niacinamide

BARR COSMETICS Centella Calming Barrier Cream



What it does: Moisturize

My life is punctuated by my fangirling phases. At first it was Japanese rock, then it was K-pop, and now it’s ceramides. No, really—since falling in love with a particular ceramide product from COSRX, my life has changed.


If you’re doing all the hydrating steps right but still find your moisture compromised, chances are that your barrier needs reinforcement. Ceramides, which act like the stuff between shower tiles or the glue bonding the building blocks of your skin, help keep the hydration locked in and bad stuff shut out. 


The ceramide product that transformed me into a believer was COSRX’s Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream (originally P1300 but on sale for P845!). The main ingredient is Centella Asiatica Leaf Water, but it’s also equipped with three kinds of ceramides and is an absolute dream for irritated skin. Other tried, tested and pricier recommendations: Mamonde’s Ceramide Light Cream (P1710, but currently on sale for P1200) and Dr. Jart+’s Ceramidin Cream.


COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream

MAMONDE Ceramide Light Cream

DR. JART+ Ceramidin Cream



What it does: Hydrate + moisturize

Glycerin is one of those ingredients that is probably already somewhere in your skincare routine, but has flown under the radar for quite some time. These days, though, Glycerin has started getting some of the attention it rightfully deserves.


Like hyaluronic acid, glycerin is a humectant, which means it has the ability to attract water to itself, drawing hydration from the air into the skin. In addition to its hydrating properties, glycerin keeps the skin barrier in tip-top condition, ensuring that none of that hard-earned hydration goes to waste. Get your glycerin fix with these picks: The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (P780) and The Inkey List’s Peptide Moisturizer (P1070).


THE ORDINARY Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

THE INKEY LIST Peptide Moisturizer



RELATED: A Beginner’s Guide to Budget-Friendly Skincare from the Drugstore


What are your skincare resolutions for the year? Trying out more ingredients? Experimenting with acids? Getting a clearer complexion or showing your acne some love? Whatever your goals, we hope they have nothing to do with stripping your skin. We lost enough good things in 2020 to let 2021 take our moisture and hydration away! 



Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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